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2. Rural public services

Possible policy indicators: rural public services

  • What is the level of expenditure on rural public services, including health, education, and water and sanitation?
  • Are women, politically, socially and economically remote, and marginalised smallholder farmer communities effectively targeted in the provision of these public services?

30. Public service provision in much of rural Africa is patchy or even non-existent.  Access to affordable, adequate healthcare is a key determinant in the prospects of the rural poor.  In a wide-ranging study of 1,700 households in 20 rural villages in Western Kenya, villagers overwhelmingly cited poor health and health-related expenses as the reason they declined into poverty (Krishna 2004 in Conway 2012).  Education provision is often inadequate, and many farmers cannot afford to send their children to school, either because of distances and lack of transport and infrastructure, or because they simply cannot afford doing without that child’s contribution on the farm where family labour drives production. 

31. There is not a lot of data available on returns to investment of various categories of public spending in Africa; more work appears to have been done on this subject in other regions (Benin  2009).  A recent quantitative study of sub-Saharan data by the IFPRI provides some evidence that public service expenditures, especially on health and education, can influence input productivity and efficiency in agriculture, but concludes that “the results call for better data on public service expenditures so that the relationships between labor, health, and government provisions can be better understood” (Allen and Qaim 2012).  For governments wanting to promote increased agricultural growth in the context of severe budget constraints, it would be very useful to have more information on where their investment would make the biggest difference. This could be a valuable area for donors and international development institutions to support further research.

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